Home > Football, Rants > Worst Teams of the Decade (a.k.a. Detroit and Friends; UPDATED)

Worst Teams of the Decade (a.k.a. Detroit and Friends; UPDATED)

And here’s the other side of the coin, the worst teams of the 2000s.

10. Arizona Cardinals, 2000
Record: 3-13
Offense: 27th
Defense: 30th
Fate: 5th Place, NFC East
Coach: Vince Tobin (Weeks 1-8) and Dave McGinnis (Weeks 9-17)
Pro Bowlers: 1 (P Scott Player)
Bio: The Cardinals should probably be given “Turnaround Team of the Decade” for their improvement from this nightmare of bad football. After starting the season with promise by edging the rival Cowboys, the Cardinals fell off a cliff. They barely edged a fledgling Browns team and earned a one-point win over a Redskins team going nowhere. They gave up an astonishing 29 rushing touchdowns and 4.5 yards per carry over the course of the year, and Jake “the Snake” Plummer threw 21 interceptions. The worst part of all was just how cavalier the team was. There were no expectations, no shame for losing, just apathy and excuses. Which makes the team’s 2008 achievements that much more astonishing.

9. Cleveland Browns, 2000
Record: 3-13
Offense: 30th
Defense: 25th
Fate: 6th Place, AFC Central
Coach: Chris Palmer
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: I’ll sum up this awful team to you like this: the Browns failed to score in four games out of sixteen. They failed to get a touchdown in six. While it’s hard to score when you’re playing legendary defenses like the Titans and Ravens twice a year, you still have to come away with at least some points if you want to avoid making this list. They eked out a two-game winning streak by beating the awful Bengals and mediocre Steelers in a stretch, but Tim Couch proved for a second season that he was incapable of being an NFL quarterback. They couldn’t even beat their listmates, the 2000 Cardinals.

8. Houston Texans, 2002
Record: 4-12
Offense: 32nd
Defense: 20th
Fate: 4th Place, AFC South
Coach: Dom Capers
Pro Bowlers: 2 (DE Gary Walker, CB Aaron Glenn)
Bio: Picking on an expansion team isn’t really fair, I know, but their inclusion is crucial for a complete list. Unlike the awful teams that are lower on this list, the expansion Texans actually started off with a respectable defense. They gave up 30+ points only four times, and the unit got better as the year went on, culminating in a 24-6 win over the Steelers. Still, they were a bad team, allowing 38 to a Bengals squad that only narrowly avoided this list. They allowed 76 sacks, the high water mark of bad offensive line play and pocket presence to this day.

7. San Francisco 49ers, 2004
Record: 2-14
Offense: 29th
Defense: 31st
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Dennis Erickson
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: When the best achievement you can claim is that your team only lost by 14 to the defending world champions, your team is bad. The 49ers swept the Cardinals by a score of 31-28 twice, and that was enough wins for them. In between those two games, a tale of misery unfolded. The all-star duo of Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey combined for 19 interceptions, some guy by the name of Eric Johnson led the team in receiving yards, and the defense gave up nearly 30 points a game. Only a handful of the starters on this team are still playing in the league five years later, mostly as benchwarmers. The scary thing is…this wasn’t even the worst 49ers team of the 2000s.

6. Arizona Cardinals, 2003
Record: 4-12
Offense: 32nd
Defense: 32nd
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Dave McGinnis
Pro Bowlers: 1 (WR/KR Anquan Boldin)
Bio: Before the seeds of victory were planted by Ken Whisenhunt and Kurt Warner, there were the 2003 Cardinals, starring the comedic stylings of Dave McGinnis and Jeff Blake. Even the abysmal Browns and Lions of that year took their turn beating the crap out of this disgrace of a team, as did better ones like the Rams and Seahawks. They barely beat the 49ers at Monster Park, who went to Sun Devil Stadium and gave the Cardinals a 50-14 burial in front of a half-vacant crowd. The bright side? Their awful performance gave them cause to fire McGinnis and draft position to snag Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, and Darnell Dockett, players that are now the core of the Super Bowl-caliber Cards.

5. St. Louis Rams, 2009
Record: 1-15
Offense: 32nd
Defense: 31st
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Steve Spagnuolo
Pro Bowlers: 1 (RB Steven Jackson)
Bio: For those that don’t know, Coach Spagnuolo is considered one of the best defensive minds in football today for his fantastic job coordinating the defensive approach that slayed the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the awful Rams defense in his rookie year as a head coach. Their best games were a small victory over the Lions and a 5-point loss to the Saints in St. Louis coming off of a bye-week. Steven Jackson had a career year but remained relatively obscure despite his high-level of play. The reason? The Rams were often too far behind to use him effectively. They were forced into passing situations early and often, resulting in disaster more often than not.

4. St. Louis Rams, 2008
Record: 2-14
Offense: 32nd
Defense: 30th
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Scott Linehan (Weeks 1-4), Jim Haslett (Weeks 5-17)
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: This team was fantastically bad, bad enough to warrant a regime change four games into the season. Awe-inspiring blowouts handed down by the Eagles, Giants, Seahawks, and Bills cost Coach Linehan his job at the bye week. When Coach Haslett took over, he earned two quick wins against good competition, including a 34-14 evisceration of the Cowboys. It all fell apart with ten straight losses, including sweeps by the 49ers and Cardinals. The worst of the streak was Week 10 against the Jets. New York found themselves up 40-0 at halftime without even really having to try.

3. Detroit Lions, 2008
Record: 0-16
Offense: 30th
Defense: 32nd
Fate: 4th Place, NFC North
Coach: Rod Marinelli
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: A lot of bloggers will put this team at the top of their “worst teams” list simply because of their record, and that’s a legitimate point to make, but allow me a rebuttal: the 2008 Lions could have easily gone 4-12 with a little bit better fortune and a few bounces their way. Sure, it’s fun to point and laugh at Dan Orlovsky backing himself out of his own end zone as the pinnacle of awful football, but you can’t look at that play without factoring that the Lions were very much in that game from start to finish against a playoff-bound Vikings team. You can cite their 21-point loss to the 6-10 Packers in Week 2, but you can’t discount that Detroit had the lead in the fourth quarter before the Packers pulled away.

2. Detroit Lions, 2009
Record: 2-14
Offense: 31st
Defense: 32nd
Fate: 4th Place, NFC North
Coach: Jim Schwartz
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: Kinda hard to believe that this team could possibly be worse than the 0-16 bucket of shame that came before it, no? As I explained, the 2008 team was no doubt terrible, but they played a lot of teams close and at least three of their losses can be attributed to bad luck. This team is every bit as bad as their abysmal record suggests. Seven teams put up 30 points or more on them, and they’ve only scored 30+ once. The Seahawks, a team with no offense to speak of that year, mustered 32 points. The only win the woeful Rams had was against the Lions. This team is indeed slightly worse than the winless band that came before. It’s scary to think just how badly this team will get destroyed by the Pats next year.

1. San Francisco 49ers, 2005
Record: 4-12
Offense: 32nd
Defense: 31st
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Mike Nolan
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: How bad were the Niners in ’05? About as bad as your mind can possibly imagine. This team could have very easily gone 0-16 if they’d had a tougher schedule, but instead they got to have fun ekeing out 3-4 point wins over the almost-as-awful Rams twice and the Texans once while earning a fluke win over the Chris Simms-led Buccaneers where they never saw the end zone. That’s right: their only “strong” win was made possible by five field goals and zero touchdowns. On the other hand, their losses were downright slaughter handed down by such powerhouses as the 5-11 Eagles, 5-11 Cardinals (twice), and the 4-12 Titans. This team’s only bright spot was RB Frank Gore, who would have a breakout year in 2006.

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